By Rob Moseley
The numbers perhaps painted a more generous story about Oregon’s defense than the Ducks offered about themselves following Saturday’s 66-3 win over Nicholls in Autzen Stadium.
The Colonels managed just a single field goal, ran for only 87 yards on 37 rushes and averaged 5.1 yards per passing attempt, marvelous numbers on a piece of paper. But there were enough sustained drives over the course of the day that Nick Aliotti will have some things to harp on when the Ducks get back to work for next week’s trip to Virginia.
“We couldn’t get off the field as well as I thought we should,” Aliotti said. “… It’s interesting, we win 66-3 and we’re trying to dissect it. Overall I’m pleased. The win is the biggest stat, and the three points is the second biggest stat.”
The Ducks also forced two fumbles on the afternoon, and had to deal with the absence of starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell for much of the game following his ejection under new rules for targeting the head of an opponent.
With Nicholls starting quarterback Beaux Hebert knocked from the game on that play, the Colonels turned to Kalen Henderson, a more mobile quarterback who ran 16 times for 46 yards.
“We knew they were a running team, that they run a lot of quarterback powers, so we were prepared for it,” UO drop end Tony Washington said. “That guy was shifty, got out of the pocket and made things happen with his feet.”
Washington was one of Oregon’s three new starters in the linebacking corps, and played extensively along with outside linebacker Boseko Lokombo. The Ducks rotated more at most every other position, including inside linebacker, where starters Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone and three subs all played extensively.
“I have a bad habit – I want great execution and I want to win – so if there’s a fault, the fault is mine,” Aliotti said. “I wanted to keep those guys in there until I felt we played well enough.
“We do have some depth, we need to play more guys and we will. But I wanted to make sure we finished the job before I made a lot of substitutions.”
“I feel like we did extremely well,” Malone said. “The communication was there, we had some great execution and I feel like we did a good job.
“We all got those jitters out, we all ran around and saw what we can do, and I feel like we’re making steps to being an elite team.”
Along with Henderson’s rushing, the UO defense was hurt some by Nicholls’ screen game. Running back Marcus Washington led the Colonels with 11 receptions for 92 yards, check-down plays that didn’t do great damage but are something the Ducks want to clean up going forward.
“I don’t think it was something like, ‘Oh, you guys can have that, we’re going to protect against something else (i.e., deeper passes),’” Washington said. “They were running their offense, doing a good job of that. I guess we need to work on that, because personally I don’t want them to gain any yards.”